ISM World 2021: Empowering Women in Supply Management

May 20, 2021
By Sue Doerfler

Women in supply management commonly face four challenges, leadership coach Shami Anand has found: (1) navigating a male-dominated field, (2) a changing perception of the function, (3) building a strong talent pipeline and (4) reclaiming time for self.

The themes emerged during interviews with women supply management leaders that Anand (pictured above), founder of Power Your Impact, LLC., a company designed to help women elevate their leadership impact in supply management, conducted. During “The Voice of Women in Supply Management,” a live seminar presented Thursday during the ISM World 2021 Annual Conference, Anand led a panel of six women in diverse supply management roles who discussed how their careers and lives have been impacted by the four themes. She also shared comments from the women she interviewed.

Navigating a Male-Dominated Field

Common issues: unconscious bias internally and externally, and the perception that women aren’t tough negotiators.

Mercedes Romero, chief procurement officer at Primo Water Corporation, recalled her first big negotiation with a supplier, in which she was the lead. She was the only woman in the negotiation group. Assuming she was an assistant, the supplier told her to sit in the back. “He said, ‘You can take notes better there,’ ” Romero recalled. So, she sat in the back. “When the meeting started, he asked where Mr. Romero was. And I said, ‘I am here.’ The power of that negotiation totally shifted to my side.”

Romero’s advice: Take that power with you.

Charlotte de Brabandt, ISM Thought Leadership Council Ambassador, recalled being part of a supply management program with a production component. The other 10 participants — all men — had completed the component, but she had yet to begin it. Wanting the experience before the program ended, she asked the manager about it. He was surprised she was interested in doing it because it required hard labor.

De Brabandt’s advice: You don’t get if you don’t ask.

I. Javette Hines, director, supply chain supplier senior group manager and head of supply chain development, inclusion and sustainability at Citi, said during a management change, the new manager may not know what you’re capable of or what the supply management function is.

Hines’ advice: Constantly navigate the workplace so that you’re not just part of the supply management organization, you’re aligned with people across the corporation. Additionally, consider asking for coaching to determine your strengths and of improvement.

Changing the Perception of the Function

Common issues: Supply management is considered a support function, others don’t understand that the function goes beyond cost-cutting, and it’s exhausting having to build credibility through repeated wins.

Jane Krueger, executive director — supply chain at Collins Aerospace Interiors, said that when she moved from another area to supply management, she was shocked at the breadth of knowledge the function is responsible for.

Krueger’s advice: Don’t want to be asked to sit at the table. Go grab it. And go prepared.

Building a Strong Talent Pipeline

Common issues: Procurement isn’t perceived as a destination function; people need to understand how what the function does is important.

Emerging professional Julia Mionis, small stampings buyer at General Motors, recommends that women looking to enter the supply management profession should ask such questions as: What are the opportunities for new individuals at the company? What is the level of satisfaction among those in the function?

Mionis’ advice: Seek out a company’s mission or vision statement to ensure that diversity is part of it.

Jeanne Rineer, C.P.M., senior group manager, soft goods supply chain and procurement at Apple Inc., mentioned that companies should recruit from diverse sources and diverse backgrounds, such as non-procurement functions. Recruiting panels should reflect the workforce, she said, and not be tokenism.

Rineer’s advice: “One of the things that has kept me reasonably sane during the (COVID-19) pandemic is having constant contact with who I consider my personal board of directors, whether they be mentors, peers or people that I mentor, people who I go to for advice and vent and share success stories.”

Reclaiming Time for Self

Common issues: Women carry a larger load both at home and in the office, feel intense pressure to deliver, and often don’t take time to pause and reflect.

De Brabandt said that when she began her career, she considered work/life balance to be more work/life integration, “supporting your work and life, and meeting the schedule for both needs. This, in a way. creates a lot more synergies at work and in your private life,” she said.

De Brabandt’s advice: Because everyone has different goals, it’s important to be self-aware.

Anand and ISM will host and facilitate the Women’s Supply Management Community Workshop, a three-hour event on June 10 at 1 p.m. ET. Click here for more information and to register.

About the Author

Sue Doerfler

About the Author

As Senior Writer for Inside Supply Management® magazine, I cover topics, trends and issues relating to supply chain management.